Creating a Trauma Sensitive Environment

“Creating a Trauma Sensitive Environment”
A) To replace unhealthy patterns with healthier behaviors. (What’s in your tool box?)
B) Avoid re-traumatizing people that come to us for care.
C) Strategize interventions on how the program and building space can be arranged in such a
way that helps all clients and staff feel safe.
Some strategies that were discussed include:
1. Client signs a zero tolerance for aggression “Credo” upon admission.
2. Place a large sign in the Lobby designating Zero Tolerance for Aggression.
3. Post signs: The use of signs “Quiet Zones”. Post just a few in designated areas.
4. Post information on Domestic Violence hotline numbers in the lobby and female dorms
and Lobby.
5. Universal precaution for Trauma. Assume that all clients have experienced some form
of trauma during your initial contact with them.
6. Counselors ask clients to elaborate regarding trauma history and refer for the appropriate
provider if they are in need (ie MH counseling, D.V. counseling, Pastoral counseling…)
Assessment to list trigger(s).
a. Secular counselor can help with the Hurt but only a Christian counselor can help with
Healing by the power of the Holy Spirit.
7. Coping skills set for their tool box to replace Street/Survival Skills:
a. Talking with clients about what types of coping skills they have already and how they
can incorporate them into the program (ie: walking, journaling…)
1) Develop Worksheet A. Teaching to managing stressors from the start of admission.
2) Develop a Worksheet B. Discuss coping skills as a group and what skills they
transfer to the next treatment area when they leave.
8. Set the expectation with the clients about when/where they can practice these coping
techniques within the physical program structure. Knowing the structure ahead of time
provides emotional support. Place in Handbook?
a. LARGE SIGN in the day room listing healthy coping skills. “When you get angry,
stressed ... etc then try these ________, _______, ______,___________, etc.
9. Physical Plant:
a. Put the TV on a rolling cart so that it can be removed from the client lounge,
throughout the day to reduce noise. (Current events, News).
b. Using the partition in the day room as needed for a quiet area.
c. Reassessing the Pay Phone use/location - generates aggression. Phone Removed
d. Remember that a Daily Schedule or Routine provides stability.
e. Games available for Recreation. Nothing better than a belly laugh to help
re-create healthy experiences. Good experiences produce a desire to seek more of the
same good experiences.
f. Post the Mental Health Crisis Hotline number in the open area along with the services
they offer.
10. Staff
a. Learn about trauma.
b. Be self-aware of your own trauma. (vicarious trauma)
c. Avoid being drawn into the trauma triangle. Victim, perpetrator, rescuer.
d. Hold a mini inservice periodically.
e. Post a reminder or resource on the bulletin board in the coffee room about trauma.
11. Staff to avoid wearing keys on their hips. (sends the wrong message of power, control)
12. Staff enforce the dress code e.g. no PJs in the lounge area.
13. Look at other usual items that are part of your day to day operation or Policies that may
send the wrong message. Make a list
What do clients need from employees ?
Grace: Not knowing how to get out of what they are in: break the cycle. Both victim or bully.
Respect: Respect for what they have been through (usually complex trauma). Emotional and
physical privacy.
Acceptance: Judgment free zone. Being accepted and being observed?
Physical & Emotional Boundaries:
o Help to develop a sense of self- voice. Practice making soft- safe choices.
o Building up their emotional muscle to say no to things bad and yes to things good.
o Chaos & unpredictable environment/individual behaviors can become trigger(s).
o They need to be with safe people and people who can make them safe.
o Consistent enforcement of the rules: staff have a responsibility to keep people
emotionally and physically safe.
Healthy Staff: Leave your emotional baggage at the door.
Safety: Emotional & physical safety. Avoid re-traumatizing experiences e.g body search.
Hank Visalli
Director of Programs
Rescue Mission of Utica
[email protected]
(315) 735-1645 ext. 120